Seán Connery. What a man. A man’s man. A ladies’ man. A Sci-Fi man.
Oh yes, indeed. The bold Seán has made the several forays into the world of Science-Fiction, some good (‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ for all its faults is still hugely enjoyable), some not so good (1974’s ‘Zardoz’ – Connery is a big red nappy – and it’s Irish!).
But one of his better ventures was Peter Hyams’ forgotten Sci-Fi actioner, ‘Outland’, released to critical approval in 1981. Aptly summed up as ‘High Noon’ in space, it deals with a police officer (Connery) being dispatched to a large mining colony on Io, one of the moons of Jupiter. There he encounters corruption, organized crime, drug smuggling, unscrupulous corporate politics and a shootout finale. All this takes place in a maze of low-light tunnels, futuristic corridors and metal-wrapped rooms that look like they came straight out of Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’.
Indeed the marked similarities in layout and design between both movies has often been remarked upon, usually to the disparagement of ‘Outland’, but in fact both movies merely extrapolate a future based upon the ideas and concepts of the late 1970s and early ‘80s in a realistic manner and come up unsurprisingly with much the same results. The mining colony of Io looks remarkably lifelike, with a worn, industrial lived-in look. It is a dark, grimy place reflecting its purpose and much of the technology still looks remarkably believable today.
Though liked by critics the audience reaction upon release was mixed and today the movie enjoys a greater reputation than it did then as a primer of what a realistic Science-Fiction movie should look like – and feel. Thirty years on it can still be enjoyed as a western set in space, and any film with Seán Connery is always going to be good.